There's a sense of deja-vu eclipsing the England cricket contingent at the minute.
A reasonable run-chase of 145. England were always going to make it look difficult; it's what they do. But a complete collapse to 72 all out is embarrassing, unacceptable, pathetic... whatever adjective you want to use, it was not the outcome that England were expecting. It was the same old story with England. A bit of turn, some clever deliveries, an inability to get onto the front foot and attack, instead choosing to prod and grope at the odd delivery meant that the run chase never got off to the start it deserved.
England are well known for being cautious, and going into this run chase swinging the bat about loosely would not have done them any favours. But hanging on the back foot, and playing overly defensively, does not project a confident imagery. Pakistan knew this, and they drew on it. There were some absolute beauties; Rehman's delivery to Broad that flew into the off-stump was absolutely gorgeous, but for the most, it was just standard off-spin on a pitch that was turning. More wickets fell to LBW's than to fielding dismissals. Time and time again, England just looked clueless against spin. Hanging back on the crease meant the batsmen were wide open to LBW's, and the debate will rage about what needs to be done. As blasé as it sounds, all England needed to do was hit the ball, and protect their wicket; yet batsman after batsman came and went after trying to defend and missing the ball.
It seems almost sure that Eoin Morgan will have to go. Arguably England's best player of spin in the one day format, he has appeared unable to deal with the pressure this series has brought. He too fell victim to England's back-foot calamities, and the ball crept through to rearrange his leg stump. But Morgan is not the sole problem in this batting line-up. In four innings, Ian Bell has looked stumped against decent spin bowling. A struggle to read a doosra is forgivable; being unable to deal with spin on the whole is not. As Michael Vaughan pointed out on TMS, Bell struggled against Warne, Murali and now against Ajmal and Rehman. Pietersen's well-documented struggles against left-arm spin continued. Strauss hit a few lovely shots, including a gorgeous cut through the covers, but was too negative, or defensive, in his stroke play, and this attitude ended his stay at the crease.
The sad thing is, England's dismal batting partially negates a stunning Pakistan team performance. Misbah's captaincy has been a joy to watch; he knows his bowlers well, he knows how to set a field to each of them and Pakistan were positive where England were unsure. It was a fantastic lesson in spin bowling. Ajmal took a backseat as Rehman's left arm spin bamboozled England. The aforementioned Broad wicket was divine, as was his dismissal of Morgan. And watching Pakistan at the end, it was impossible to not feel some sense of affection towards them. This is a side that has transformed itself over the past year. With a new captain, a crop of young players and a huge dedication to their sport, they've moved on from the spot-fixing allegations and have just won a series against the number one ranked team in the world. It's an immensely proud time for Pakistani cricket.
Equally distressing is that the batting collapse will take precedence over what was a very strong bowling performance. Monty Panesar, back in an England shirt after two years, was as watchable as he was in 2007. Monty's unbounded enthusiasm and dedication paid off in this match; he claimed two vital top-order wickets and then cleaned up the tail without too much fuss, his delivery to dismiss Younis Khan being a particular highlight. It was disappointing to see such an emphatic performance from Panesar essentially go to waste as the batsman crumbled in their attempts to reach 145. Swann was also tidy, working well with Panesar, and coupled with the Pakistan bowling performance, the spinners were a joy to watch in both innings. Broad is also beginning to live up to his all-rounder label, with a bowling performance that proved his success against India was not just a product of swinging English conditions, before a handy 58 in the first innings pulled England out of yet another hole.
Ultimately, England's batting is not up to scratch. People can blame Trott's illness and subsequent disruption to the batting order; they can blame Ajmal's doosra and a pitch that was conducive to spin. Whatever reasons people want to grab at, the simple fact remains that England's batting just wasn't good enough. It was a gripping Test from start to finish - far more entertaining than the recent one-sided battles everyone has become accustomed to - but to watch England's batting crumble for the second time in this series was completely disheartening. England will be mocked, and critiqued, but it'll be a measure of how great this side is to see how they bounce back in the final game on Friday.
Still. We'll always have Melbourne.